Colon cancer affects thousands of Americans each year across the country and can spread throughout the body if not discovered in its early stages. Colon cancer can be extremely difficult to treat if not discovered in the early stages of the disease. The symptoms of colon cancer, such as blood in the stool or constipation, typically do not show up until the cancer has become well developed in the colon. This is why doctors recommend that patients get regular colon cancer screening once they reach the age of 50. Some patients will be told to get regular screening earlier than age 50 if they have a family history of colon cancer or have other risk factors for developing the disease. There are various treatment options available for patients suffering from colon cancer including surgery, medicine, and chemotherapy.
Colon CancerDoctors will create a course of treatment based on which stage the patient’s cancer is in at the time of discovery. If the cancer is in the early stages then surgery might be the best option to go with followed by a round or two of chemotherapy. If the cancer is in a late stage then the doctor will need to determine how many rounds of chemotherapy and at what strength they should be used to treat the colon cancer tumors. Another option for treating colon cancer is the use of radiation. Typically, surgery is only a viable option when the cancer is in an early stage. Surgery can be performed during a colonoscopy, removing the polyps found in the colon by the doctor.
Another type of surgery occurs when the cancer is considered to be invasive. Invasive colon cancer occurs when the tumors have invaded other areas of the colon. This type of surgery will require the doctor to remove a piece of the colon, where the tumor has spread to, to help treat the disease. During this procedure, lymph nodes near the tumor are usually also removed to have them tested for cancer. Once the surgery is complete, the doctor should be able to reconnect the patient’s colon or rectum. If this cannot be done then the patient might have to live the rest of his or her life with a permanent colostomy.
Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells, to control the growth of the cancer cells, or to relieve some of the symptoms of the cancer in the colon. Chemotherapy for colon cancer is usually not used unless the cancer has spread from the colon to another organ or to the lymph nodes in the same area. Radiation therapy is used to kill cancer cells or to shrink a tumor prior to surgery, which is performed to have that tumor removed from the affected area of the body. The three most common drugs used to treat colon cancer include Avastin, Erbitux, and Vectibix. Not all colon cancer patients benefit from taking medication targeted at colon cancer. If patients do not react well to medication then their only options depend on the staging of the cancer.